Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

email Ben

Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019. For a year, he focused on reporting on water and water resource issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.

Starting in September 2020, Ben’s reporting focus has been on the new landscape of living, working, and playing in the Northwoods, a place mostly devoid of giant employers, but a home to many entrepreneurs, small businesses, and people working from home. The series is called Employed.

In addition to special topics reporting, Ben often contributes to daily news reporting and hosting on WXPR.

Prior to joining the WXPR team, Ben spent more than seven years serving in several roles at WJFW-TV in Rhinelander.

Originally from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Ben is a graduate of UW-Madison. He lives in Rhinelander with his wife, Erika.  Outside of work, Ben is currently pursuing a law degree at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in the Twin Cities. He’s is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan, and enjoys doing outdoor projects, running, and competing in triathlons.  Ben is also a WIAA basketball official and calls play-by-play for Rhinelander Hodags sports.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

To Ryan Hanson, the proposal for a new building just west of Rhinelander just isn’t that complicated.

“The actual transfer station is really nothing more than a pole building,” Hanson explained. “It’s a metal-sided, metal-roofed building with garage doors on one side, and then a handful of dumpsters.”

It would sit about 600 feet off of Highway 47, hidden by a buffer of trees from that road, Highway 8, and Highway K, which are all nearby.

Even so, the neighbors don’t like it.

Lee Recreation

A non-profit group in Tomahawk hopes to build what it says would be the first all-inclusive playground in the area.

The group has an ambitious fundraising goal, but it hopes to meet the goal by the end of the summer.

Tomahawk Together, a group promoting healthy kids and families, is eyeing the Washington Square Park in Tomahawk for the inclusive playground.

Wisconsin DNR

A prominent Wisconsin conservation group says the deer population in the state is far too high.

It’s urging the DNR to take action.

That’s just one of the suggestions advanced by Wisconsin’s Green Fire as part of a just-released comprehensive report on deer conservation. The report also requests the DNR take more aggressive action to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Ben Meyer/WXPR

A walk in Rhinelander’s Holmboe Conifer Forest requires a stop every few steps to hear or see a new amphibian.

On a recent stroll, Ted Anchor of the Northwoods Land Trust pointed out the trill of a gray tree frog, the leap of an American toad, and several salamander species under rocks and logs.

“[Here’s] another salamander species on the property. We found blue-spotted [salamanders] so far, and this is a small red-backed salamander who is very active,” said Anchor, cradling the small creature in his hand. “He’s winging around like a fish.”

Leanne Vigue Miranda

Last October, the end of the school year seemed a long way off for Rhinelander mother Leanne Vigue Miranda.

“I live day by day because, otherwise, that prospect of, oh my gosh, I have to continue this for eight more months is super scary,” she told WXPR back then.

Miranda is the registrar at Nicolet College.

Oneida County Sheriff's Office

An “armed and dangerous” suspect remains at large after a woman was found dead on the side of a road near Rhinelander on Wednesday.

The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office said Christopher Terrell Anderson, 30, is the suspect in the case. He remains at large as of 2 p.m. Wednesday.

The Sheriff’s Office had gotten a 911 call reporting a woman lying on the side of River Bend Road near Highway 8, just east of Rhinelander. The Sheriff’s Office said she died of a “firearm injury.” The call came in at about 11 a.m., according to Oneida County Sheriff's Captain Terri Hook.

Blain's Farm & Fleet

Blain’s Farm & Fleet will open a store in Rhinelander in fall 2022.

The chain calls itself a “Modern General Store” and has more than 40 locations in the region.

"For Rhinelander in particular, we've been working toward this opportunity for several years. This location is special to me because we've wanted to be nearer to my Dad and Uncle's stomping grounds in northern Wisconsin,” said company President, Owner, and CEO Jane Blain Gilbertson in a press release.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Last week, Diane Dodge closed her doors for the last time as the owner of Diane’s Frame Shoppe in downtown Rhinelander.

She’s owned and operated the frame shop since setting out on her own in 2005, struggling through a lean first few years.

“There were a few times we had to borrow to keep everything going, but we felt that it was going to be worth it, so we just kept going,” she said. “It was worth it.”

Through Diane’s work and the help of her husband, Ray, the successful business has now served thousands of customers.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill designed to save two shuttered paper mills. The bill passed Tuesday would make available a $50 million loan to a cooperative that wants to buy the Verso paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids and make a $15 million loan for a cooperative working to purchase the Park Falls paper mill. The money would come from federal coronavirus relief money. The bill came after a year of discussion with state, local and federal officials about how to save the Verso mill, which closed in June 2020 after more than a hundred years of operation. It employed 900 people.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Oneida County and its cities and towns will be getting more than $10 million in federal money as a part of the most recent rescue plan.

But we’re not sure where that money will go.

In March, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. That law gave direct payments to most Americans, poured more money into unemployment payments, and helped distribute vaccines.

Hundreds of billions of dollars also went to state, local, and tribal governments.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Blades of helicopters slice incessantly through the western Wisconsin sky.

“Security Forces is finding people in a search and rescue exercise. They’re finding people and they’re evaluating their needs and they’re sending them out on helicopters, in case they need medical care,” explains Lt. Col. Sarah Ashley Nickloes of the U.S. Air Force and Tennessee Air National Guard.

National Guard soldiers and airmen, alongside civilian emergency crews, lift mannequins and live actors onto stretchers.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Full hides of brown and black leather are draped over a cart and wheeled by a worker from place to place in the maze-like Weinbrenner Shoe Company factory in Merrill.

“Not everybody realizes what goes into making the shoe. I always tell people, if you get a chance to tour a shoe factory, take it,” says Rick Hass, a costing engineer serving as a tour guide of the factory floor.

The factory, which produces premium shoes and boots sold under the Thorogood brand, dates to 1936.

It has low ceilings, some dark corners, and worker after worker focused on their task.

Minocqua Police Department Facebook

We now know a teenager had a seizure before he drowned on Mercer Lake in Minocqua on Sunday evening.

Eighteen-year-old Maxwell Pipp of Ixonia was riding a pontoon boat and swimming with friends when he went under the water.

Minocqua Police Chief Dave Jaeger explained what happened when emergency responders got there.

“Upon arrival, the subject had still not emerged yet, so the dive team was brought in and recovered the subject, attempted CPR. I believe the CPR was unsuccessful,” Jaeger said.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Hans Breitenmoser Jr.’s mother and father came to northern Wisconsin as Swiss immigrants, searching for the American Dream.

“My parents started here in 1968. I was born in 1969. They made their career of this farm,” Breitenmoser said Wednesday. “They started out with 20 cows.”

The Merrill-area farm grew, and so did the family’s passion for the land, the career, and each other.

“My father just passed away in February at age 82. He’s buried right over there,” Breitenmoser said, choking up as he pointed to the road. “He made a good career.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Visitors to the shop floor at AirPro Fan in Rhinelander are greeted by a wall of sound and activity.

Forklifts dart here and there, welders send sparks flying, and industrial fans are moved from one place to another by ceiling-mounted lifts.

“What you’re going to see is all sorts of things going on, welding, machining, all sorts of things,” said AirPro’s Lori Miller on a recent tour.

One worker was slathering thick grease on a fan, applying the finishing touches.